Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Provocative photo series sees 'emasculated' Ken stuck in a loveless marriage as Barbie questions her existence

3 Dina Goldstein Breakfast.jpg

An intoxicating photo series plays havoc with the happily ever after narrative of Barbie and Ken, by rocking the foundations of their apparently golden "marriage".

Vancouver-based surrealist Dina Goldstein has never been convinced by the traditional gender roles the iconic Mattel dolls take in popular culture. 

In fact, she feels that far from being a ladies' man, flamboyant Ken has been "emasculated" by his own creators.

"I started playing with dolls in my head, and started thinking that this marriage [with Barbie] has been imposed on him, and now he’s just breaking free and breaking loose, and finding his authentic self," she says


That experimentation led to her project In the Dollhouse, a series of 10 incredibly realistic photos that show Ken and Barbie buckle under the pressure of playing the idealized American couple.  

The sequential narrative becomes increasingly dark as Ken breaks out to express himself and Barbie starts questioning the shallow constructs that define her. 

"Ken, who has been trapped in an imposed marriage for over three decades, discovers his authentic self and finally expresses his individuality," says Goldstein. "Barbie´s fate is grim... as she breaks down and confronts her own value and fleeting relevance."

In an homage to Frida Kahlo’s Self Portrait With Cropped Hair, Barbie is eventually seen cutting off her golden tresses and tearfully donning Ken’s suit.

"She wants to be closer to him, she wants him to love her, and maybe if she was more masculine, he would," says Goldstein. 

Watch the making of Dina Goldstein's In The Dollhouse series:

Goldstein was first inspired to create the project after witnessing her two young daughters instinctively playing out conventional gender roles with their dolls. 

"I’m not a typical mommy and Daddy’s not a typical daddy," Goldstein says. "Daddy gets them ready in the morning every day, because Mommy’s sleeping in because Mommy works late. And yet, when they’re playing dolls, Barbie’s cooking in the kitchen and Ken’s going to work. I don’t know where it gets in."

The controversial series first went on show at the Buschlen Mowatt gallery in Vancouver in 2013, and has been creating waves ever since. 

Goldstein previously hit headlines with her series Fallen Princesses, which tore apart the "happily ever after" narrative of Disney leads by imbuing them with real life problems, from failed dreams to addiction and obesity. 

See Goldstein's In the Dollhouse in full, below and find out more about her work here

Barbie and Ken
Barbie and Ken

Photos: Dina Goldstein



Men & Cats photos challenge sexist stereotype of 'crazy cat lady'


Hard-hitting photos show the pressure on women to be attractive


Bratz uncovered: Artist gives glam dolls a dramatic make-under


Comic book publisher responds to little girl's anti-sexism plea


Sex trafficking photo series uncovers grim reality of prostitution and abuse


Artist re-imagines classic paintings using pictures of her fat cat